Jude: Contend for the Faith – Part #3

For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. Jude 4

Jude introduces us to how the division within the church occurred. These false teachers “crept in,” literally “wormed their way in” to the church. Notice the phrase, “who long ago were marked out for this condemnation.” Let’s look at this for a minute. Jude is not saying that these men were somehow ordained to become apostates. To say that would mean that God was responsible for their sins. Instead, they become apostates because they willingly turned away from the truth. However, God ordained that such people would be judged and condemned. Old Testament prophets denounced false teachers of their day, and Jesus and His apostles pronounced judgment on them in their day. Why the judgment? They had denied the Son of God and taught that God’s grace permitted them to practice sin. All of this was done under the banner of religion and made the effects of their sin even greater. If you study your New Testament closely, you will see that Jesus offered His harshest criticism for those who used religion to isolate and promote themselves and to hinder others from coming to know the Father personally. Jude provides the progression of the apostate’s development: ungodliness – immorality – denial. Deviation from sound doctrine precedes, accompanies, and justifies ethical and moral sin. In v.5-7, Jude cites three examples of failure from the past to warn his readers of the danger involved in departing from God’s truth. 

Example #1: Israel 

5 Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord at one time delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe.

Jude 5

‘Though…this.” – Israel was very aware of how God dealt with them. It has been said that preaching is not designed to teach us something new in every sermon but to remind us of things we may have forgotten. For example, God redeemed Israel and liberated the nation from bondage in Egypt; but the people failed to continue to believe God’s promises to trust Him. Remember, Jude is using this historical event as an illustration. The entire nation was delivered, but it does not mean that every single person to the Promise Land. When Israel came to Kadesh-Barnea, they refused to enter the Promised Land. Of the twelve spies who were sent to look over the land God had promised them, only two believed God would give it to them. They departed from the fundamental basis on which they left Egypt. God had given them a promise:

Go and gather the elders of Israel together, and say to them, ‘The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared to me, saying, “I have surely visited you and seen what is done to you in Egypt; and I have said I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, to a land flowing with milk and honey.” ‘

Exodus 3:16-17

Israel’s unbelief pushed them back into the wilderness, and an entire generation died – except two. The point is that God could not simply wink and nod at their sin. If Jude’s readers were to follow the false teachers, they too would face God’s discipline.

Example #2: Angels

6 And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.  

Jude 6

Some angels did not remain in their privileged position near God (“did not keep their…authority”) but left that sphere (“abandoned their proper dwelling”) and so incurred God’s wrath. Some interpreters believe Jude alluded here to Genesis 6:1-4. Others believe he was referring to the rebellion of some angels that resulted in Satan’s expulsion from heaven. I agree with the latter – it is not a reference to Genesis 6. Jude’s point in this illustration was that the apostates in his day had also abandoned a position of great privilege and blessing, namely, the opportunity to serve and glorify God. Peter gave us another reference to the judgment of angels in his previous letter:

For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment.

2 Peter 2:4

His “chains of darkness” are not references to the chains or handcuffs we know today. The rebellious “angels” he referred to are now in bondage (“in eternal bonds under darkness”) and await (“for”) God’s “judgment” (cf. 2 Peter 2:4). These appear to be different “fallen angels” from Satan’s agents who are at work in the world today, namely, the demons—who have considerable freedom. If the highest beings known in creation were subject to judgment, how much more is man?

Example #3: Sodom and Gomorrah

As Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

Jude 7

The sins of Sodom and Gomorrah are well documented. This example demonstrates God’s judgment on those who practice immorality and sexual perversion, which characterized the apostates of Jude’s day. Sodom and Gomorrah were “set forth as an example.” The verb means “to expose openly to the public.” It is the same word phrasing for a body lying in state. These cities are not physically in view, but they are viewed openly through the Word of God. We cannot read Genesis 18-19 without seeing God’s hatred of sin. In summary, Jude highlights the error of the false teachers that brought God’s judgment:

  • The Sin of Israel (rebellion)
  • The Sin of the Angels (irreverence)
  • The Sin of Sodom and Gomorrah (lust)

There is a close connection between false doctrine and immorality:

Unholy ways always accompany, and indeed spring from, unholy teachings. Hence we can easily understand the readiness with which apostates from the truth give themselves up to what is defiling and abominable.

Henry A. Ironside

Jude: Contend for the Faith – Part #2

As we read Jude’s letter, there’s no avoiding the sense that the matters at hand are crucial. We can give this book a one-word summary: apostasy, a word that means “a departure from the truth.” Although the word does not occur verbatim in the text, the term is taken from corresponding Scriptures appearing elsewhere in the NT that refer to a latter-day departure from the faith known as apostasy. We see this usage in three specific verses:

Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition.

2 Thessalonians 2:3

Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons.

1 Timothy 4:1

Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.

Hebrews 3:12

Before we go further into Jude’s letter, it will be helpful to understand this word a little better. The terms falling away, depart, and departing in the above verses come from the Greek noun apostasia meaning “apostasy.” As we look closer at apostasia, we see the word breaks into two parts:  “apo” means “from,” and “stasis” means “to stand.” When used together, we find the meaning “to stand away from.” This “standing away from” pertains to a position previously occupied and, in the case of our New Testament writings, means “standing away from the faith once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). We must understand this moving forward. In the truest sense of the word, no one can stand away from something they have never been associated with prior. This point is illustrated by the Greek phrase apostasion in Matthew 5:31, 19:7, and Mark 10:4. In these cases, the word translates as “divorcement.” There could be no divorcement or ‘standing away from’ unless there had previously been a marriage. In the same way, no one can “stand away from the faith” (apostatize) unless they had previously been associated with the faith. The lost person is not associated with this latter-day apostasy found in Scripture.

There is a difference between apostasy and backsliding. Apostasy involves a departure from the faith, not a momentary lapse (e.g., Peter’s denial of Christ during His trial). It consists of repudiating a central doctrine of the faith. Backsliding usually refers to a regression in morals and or spiritual enthusiasm. It may or may not involve a departure from the central tenets of the faith.

Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, To those who are called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ:

Jude 1

We covered in the introduction that Jude was the half-brother of Jesus. He identifies himself as a servant and addresses the church with traditional New Testament greetings.

  • “the called” – simply those who respond in faith to God’s initiative in salvation.
  • “sanctified” – set apart from the world.
  • “preserved” – believers are kept in the Lord until His return.

Mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.

Jude 2
  • “mercy” – God’s compassion toward His people.
  • “peace” – the well-being and comfort that comes from this relationship.
  • “love” – a godly love with the other person’s best interests in mind.

Because of our sinful condition, we need God’s mercy. We need His peace because of the subtle and stimulating temptations surrounding us and the resulting chaos. Finally, we need His love because we are prone to love others for what they can do for us. Jude’s readers needed this help given the false teachers’ influence, which he proceeded to discuss. Next, we see Jude’s purpose in writing this letter:

Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. 

Jude 3

Jude had initially intended to write to the church about the joy they shared in a common salvation through Jesus Christ. Instead, the Holy Spirit led him to write about the dangers of apostasy. So he began to write to them regarding soteriology, probably as a reminder that the gospel as they learned it from Paul was the true gospel—hence, “our common salvation” (3). But news of false teachers infiltrating the church changed his plans, and he appealed to them to stand their ground and fight for their learned faith (3). These false teachers were teaching what we know today as antinomianism – a belief that there are no moral laws God expects Christians to obey. 

Most ministers have felt similarly to how Jude thought in this verse. It is enjoyable to talk about salvation and other positive subjects. However, occasionally a particular situation compels us to speak about a danger that God’s people need to appreciate. Delivering such a message is not as pleasant a task. Jude begins with a very familiar statement: “contend earnestly for the faith that once delivered to the saints.” Of course, “the faith” is the revelation of God in Scripture – it is the fixed, authoritative, orthodox, apostolic faith that has been handed down to believers and is the basis for the New Testament church today. 

The phrase “contend earnestly for” is a compound phrase used only here and is the Greek word epagonizesthai. The simple form of the verb agonizomai, which appears as ‘agonize’ in its English form, was commonly used in connection with the Greek stadium and pictures an uphill struggle to overcome an opponent. However, agonizomai was used more generally for any conflict, contest, or debate. We see this usage in at least three verses:

Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

1 Timothy 6:12

And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.

1 Corinthians 9:25

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

2 Timothy 4:7

Also seen here is the thought of expending all energy to win. We get the picture from the original language of a person taking their stand on top of something an adversary desires to take away and fighting to defend and retain it. Jude believed foundational tenets of the faith were under attack and were worth defending.

Jude: Contend for the Faith – Part 1

The book bears the author’s name with almost no dispute or challenge. Jude was both the half-brother of Jesus (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3) and a brother of James, the leader of the Jerusalem church (Jude 1; Acts 15:13). Like James, Jude was a Hellenist Jew, a term that surfaces in Acts 6:1-7. Hellellenists were Greek-speaking Jews. Alexander the Great captured Jerusalem in 332 BC. His conquests introduced Greek culture into the eastern Mediterranean world. This culture was known as “Hellenism.” “Hellen” refers to a person of Greek descent or culture. During what we know as the inter-testmental period of history, this influence spread widely. Following Alexander’s death in 323, his empire was divided among several of his generals. Dynasties were established, and the rulers of these kingdoms fought for control of the Palestinian region.

The Apocrypha details the events of this period. The cities of the Decapolis mentioned in the New Testament were centers of Hellenistic culture. Jews were living in towns and cities throughout the Hellenistic world. Some had resided in Babylonia since the time of the exile centuries before. Others moved outside of Palestine for economic reasons. As these Jews living in these Greek-influenced regions made their way back to Jerusalem, they also brought back some of the Greek influences. As a result, orthodox Jews viewed Hellenistic Jews as second-class and treated them harshly. This harsh treatment of the Hellenist Jews led to the establishment of the deacon office in Acts 6.

Jude’s letter has a two-fold purpose: 

  • Expose the false teachers that had infiltrated the Christian community
  • Encourage Christians to stand firm in the faith and fight for the truth.

Jude recognized that false teachers often peddled their wares unnoticed by the faithful, so he worked to heighten the believers’ awareness by vividly describing how terrible dissenters were. But more than simply raising awareness, Jude thought it necessary for believers to stand against those working against Jesus Christ. The over-arching theme of Jude’s letter is assurance in the days of apostasy. With that theme in mind, Jude offers three challenges to his readers:

  • Do not be led astray by false teachers.
  • Contend for the faith in light of false teachers.
  • Rely on the grace and faithfulness of God to endure.

Jude’s brevity communicates the urgency of his belief that false teachers needed to be condemned and removed from the church. Few words meant that he would not waste space dancing around the issue. He saw people and practices worthy of condemnation within the church, including rejecting authority and seeking to please themselves. Jude marshaled powerful biblical imagery to clarify what he thought of it all in response to these errors. This letter offers an unusually vivid and unique snapshot of the dynamics of life in an early Christian community. Why the effort? Why the passion? Why the urgency? Everything is still in the formative stage; everything is at the same time fresh and vulnerable. Care had to be taken to ensure that Christianity – in its infancy – was protected and advanced. Yet, as we read, there is no avoiding the sense that the matters at hand are crucial.

My Commitments for 2022

Today is the day – the first day of a brand-new year. It is a day many people anticipate. Some view today as the best day for watching college football (I am one of those). Some view today as simply a day off from work. Others view today as a chance for a new beginning. Those who view New Year’s Day as a new beginning will make resolutions to change old habits or start afresh. I don’t make resolutions. However, I believe in making commitments based on an honest evaluation of the past. With my family at the top of this list, I would like to share my commitments this year.

I plan to read smarter, so I may write better. If you are at least an occasional reader of my blog, you know I enjoy reading and writing. My plan this year is to focus and confine my reading to the areas of ministry and leadership. In 2022, I will choose quality over quantity. This smarter reading will sharpen my focus and contribute to more beneficial writing here.

I plan to say “no” to what pulls me away from my pastoral duties. I tend to say “yes” too often. As a result, I have found myself stretched thin and overloaded. I have been the pastor of First Baptist Church of Perry for almost four and half years. It is a great deal of work. The church I pastor deserves and needs my attention. Great things are ahead for the people of First Baptist in 2022. I cannot afford to be distracted.

I plan to be more focused on my preaching and teaching. Having looked back at my preaching and teaching this past year, I realize that, at times, it was scattered. My prayer is for the Lord to make me increasingly aware of the needs of my congregation, as well as the struggles and issues plaguing our city, state, and nation, and speak to them biblically and strategically. This focus will involve dedicated time away from my pastoral duties for sermon planning, vision development, and long-range planning. I cannot say how thankful I am that First Baptist Perry allows me two weeks a year for this study leave. 

I plan to spend more time with my pastoral staff this year. Today is the first New Year’s Day since my arrival at First Baptist in 2017 that we are not searching for a staff member. I am privileged to lead the largest pastoral team in my 23 years of gospel ministry. I desire to encourage and strengthen them in their areas of ministry, moving away from “I’m here if you need me” and toward “Let’s do ministry together.”

I plan to begin my book this year. For years, I have flirted with the idea of writing a book. Over the past five years, I have completed two large bodies of work. The first is a verse-by-verse exposition of the book of Ephesians, a requirement for my Doctor of Ministry degree. The second is a three-hour training conference outlining the principles of community ministry and engagement. Either of these could serve as the framework for my first book.

Why share these commitments publicly? Accountability. I hope throughout 2022, those who read my blog will ask me, “How are you doing in these areas?” What commitments have you made?

Sleeping Through Christmas

Today is Christmas. Much will happen today. Children will open gifts from under the tree that has taunted them for weeks. Families will gather today with those they have not seen in a very long time. Many will gather in houses of worship to celebrate the reason for the season. For the most part, the thoughts and focus of today will be on cultural traditions and not on the true meaning of why there is Christmas in the first place. We would not be the first ones to miss out on the reason for Christmas. In the Casting Crowns song, “While You Were Sleeping,” they write:

Oh little town of Bethlehem
Looks like another silent night
Above your deep and dreamless sleep
A giant star lights up the sky
And while you’re lying in the dark
There shines an everlasting light
For the King has left His throne
And is sleeping in a manger tonight
Oh Bethlehem, what you have missed while you were sleeping
For God became a man
And stepped into your world today
Oh Bethlehem, you will go down in history
As a city with no room for its King
While you were sleeping
While you were sleeping

Bethlehem was physically sleeping. While the residents of Bethlehem slept, the Son of God was born into the world among them. While the residents of Bethlehem slept, the Savior of the world was born in a lowly stable with no fanfare, no attention, and no honor due a king. While the residents of Bethlehem slept, the landscape of the known world, and those to come, changed forever. The residents of Bethlehem secured a place for themselves in history as “a city with no room for its King.” They go on to write:

Oh little town of Jerusalem
Looks like another silent night
The Father gave His only Son
The Way, the Truth, the Life had come
But there was no room for Him in the world He came to save
Jerusalem, what you have missed while you were sleeping
The Savior of the world is dying on your cross today
Jerusalem, you will go down in history
As a city with no room for its King
While you were sleeping
While you were sleeping

Jerusalem was spiritually sleeping. Thirty-plus years later, people were sleeping. This time, the residents of Jerusalem slept while the Son of God hung on a cross. The residents of Jerusalem slept while Jesus died for their sins. The residents of Jerusalem slept while the Messiah, the One the religious leaders were looking for and ought to have recognized, gave His life for the people who cried “Crucify Him.” He came as their writings and witnesses said He would. He walked among them. He performed miracles. He taught. He loved. He testified of an for the Father. He yielded. He died. All for this while, no one seemed to care. The residents of Jerusalem secured a place for themselves in history as “a city with no room for its King.” Before we take the residents of Bethlehem and Jerusalem to task on their failure to understand the mission and person of Jesus Christ, notice the words of Casting Crowns again:

United States of America
Looks like another silent night
As we’re sung to sleep by philosophies
That save the trees and kill the children
And while we’re lying in the dark
There’s a shout heard ‘cross the eastern sky
For the Bridegroom has returned
And has carried His bride away in the night
America, what will we miss while we are sleeping
Will Jesus come again
And leave us slumbering where we lay
America, will we go down in history
As a nation with no room for its King
Will we be sleeping
Will we be sleeping

As a nation, we are sleeping today. In the middle of the day, we’re sleeping. With the sun shining bright and eyes wide open, we’re sleeping. With the complete thoughts and mind God written for us that reveals our sin, points us to the cross, and calls us to die to self, we’re sleeping. Lullabies of tolerance, coexistence, and compromise rock a nation to sleep every night. Lullabies of “many paths to God,” “man is his own god,” and “feed what makes you feel good” enable a nation to sleep peacefully. Violence, hate, and greed are the most newsworthy items of our day. But, most troubling is that America seems to be sleeping well. What will it take to stir this nation from its sleep? What will happen to our nation if we continue to sleep? How long before God Himself says “that’s enough” and the Bridegroom splits the sky to receive His own? Will the residents of America secure for themselves a place in history as “a city with no room for its King”?

Today is Christmas. We are reminded of Luke’s words regarding this day. “Then the angel said to them, Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord”.

False Theories of the Resurrection. Part #6: Why the Wrong Tomb Theory Comes Up Short

The Wrong Tomb Theory suggests that the women went to the wrong tomb in their grief and sorrow. Coming across an empty tomb, they left and falsely reported that Jesus had risen from the dead. This theory is disproven by the fact that the women were there at Jesus’ burial. Matthew wrote, “When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed. And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the tomb (Matthew 27:59-61). It is hard to believe the women would so quickly forget Jesus’ burial place.

After they visited the empty tomb, the women quickly reported it to Peter and John, who were able to find the tomb, confirming the women correctly communicated its location. The most problematic piece of this theory is that if the women were wrong, the angel was as well. Upon arriving at the tomb, there was an earthquake, the stone was rolled away, and the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.” (Matthew 28:5-6).

Speaking on the totality of the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection, Geisler concluded:

In light of the evidence, here’s the question we should ask skeptics: ‘What happened in Jerusalem two thousand years ago that so changed the disciples that they were willing to die for their belief in the resurrection?’ The only answer can be that they saw the risen Lord. They did not have a mass hallucination. They weren’t part of some grand plot. They saw the living Jesus Christ following His death on the cross.

Norman Geisler, Reasons to Believe

False Theories of the Resurrection. Part #5: Why the Legend Theory Comes Up Short

Some critics argue that the resurrection of Jesus resulted from an accumulating legend, a position known today as the Legend Theory. After Jesus died, the story of His “resurrection” was exaggerated from person to person. The historical accounts of the resurrection and the writings associated with it (the gospels) do not fit within the style of most myths. Kreeft writes, “There are no overblown, spectacular, childishly exaggerated events. Nothing is arbitrary. Everything fits in. Everything is meaningful. The hand of a Master is at work here.”

The Gospels are different from the style of traditional myths. Instead of wildly exaggerated, overblown, and piecemeal claims, Jesus’ disciples believed, and Christians today believe, that all of Scripture is interconnected and interdependent. The amount of seemingly irrelevant detail surrounding the historical accounts of Jesus’ life and resurrection stands in opposition to the verbose style typical of myth. One such piece is found in John’s gospel. When confronted by the Pharisees with a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery, Jesus was asked about a suitable punishment:

He stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear. So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, ‘He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.’ And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

John 6:6-8, NKJV

Nothing more is said of this writing, and no detail is given of what was written. This detail of Jesus stooping to write in the dirt, although seemingly irrelevant, marks an eyewitness. The only explanation is that it happened. There was not enough time for a myth to develop. The Gospels were written within such a short time relative to the actual events that fabrication and elaboration would have been almost impossible due to the actual event’s eyewitnesses. Muller summarized this argument by saying:

One cannot imagine how such a series of legends could arise in an historical age, obtain universal respect, and supplant the historical recollection of the true character [Jesus]….if eyewitnesses were still at hand who could be questioned respecting the truth of the recorded marvels. Hence, legendary fiction, as it likes not the clear present time but prefers the mysterious gloom of gray antiquity, is wont to seek a remoteness of age, along with that of space, and to remove its boldest and most rare and wonderful creations into a very remote and unknown land (Muller 26).

Julius Muller, The Theory of Myths in Its Application to Gospel History Examined an Confuted

A significant detail in disproving the Legend Theory is that the first witnesses of the resurrection were women. In first-century Judaism, women possessed no legal right to serve as witnesses. If the empty tomb were a created legend, its creators would not have allowed multiple women to make the discovery since a woman’s testimony in that day was considered worthless. On the other hand, if the writers were reporting what they saw, they would have to tell the truth, regardless of the societal norms.

False Theories of the Resurrection. Part #4: Why the Conspiracy Theory Comes Up Short

The Conspiracy Theory holds that Jesus’ disciples stole His body and fabricated the lie of a resurrection, circulating it as truth. Conspiracy theorists hang their beliefs upon a conversation between the Jewish chief priests and the Roman guard. In the absence of a body, these officials, who both had a great deal to lose if Jesus did rise from the dead, needed to provide a plausible explanation. Matthew wrote of this conceived plan:

Now while they were on their way, behold, some of the guards came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened. And when they had assembled with the elders and counseled together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, and said, You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.’ ‘And if this should come to the governor’s ears, we will win him over and keep you out of trouble.’ And they took the money and did as they had been instructed; and this story was widely spread among the Jews, and is to this day.

Matthew 28:11-15, NKJV

The basis for this theory is the telling of a lie. To better understand how this theory attempts to explain away Jesus’ resurrection, it’s helpful to know why people lie and how it stands up against the disciples’ actions. One tends to lie for the following reasons: to avoid painful consequences or shame, to gain a favorable result, to cause others to think positively, to get out of doing something, or to protect the feelings of another. 1 The disciples had no clear motive to make up such a lie. As previously stated, a person lies for apparent self-serving reasons. It was not to the disciples’ advantage to lie.

If the disciples had stolen Jesus’ body and made up the resurrection story, the consequences they faced as a result of that lie were indeed painful and shameful. They were scorned, hated, persecuted, imprisoned, tortured, exiled, and beheaded for their belief in the resurrection (Kreeft 185). Men might die for a lie they wrongly believed, but it is impossible to think that one would willingly go to his death for a lie. Further, the disciples were not even expecting a resurrection; instead, they viewed death as final. The disciples were said to still “… not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead” (John 20:19). Further, James, the half-brother of Jesus, had not believed in Him until after the resurrection (John 7:5). On Sunday morning, when the women went to the tomb, they expected to anoint Jesus’ body, not to see a risen Lord. They expected to find everything as it was on Friday. Mark writes,

Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. And they said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?

Mark 16:1-3

If the resurrection had been a lie on the disciples’ part, it is doubtful that they would have been able to get away with telling it in Jerusalem due to a large number of eyewitnesses. Speaking on the difficulty in sharing a lie so quickly after the actual events, William Lane Craig writes:

The Gospels were written in such temporal and geographical proximity to the events they record that it would have been almost impossible to fabricate events. … The fact that the disciples were able to proclaim the resurrection in Jerusalem in the face of their enemies a few weeks after the crucifixion shows that what they proclaimed was true, for they could never have proclaimed the resurrection (and been believed) under such circumstances had it not occurred.

William Lane Craig

The character of the disciples argues against such a conspiracy on their part. Among the disciples, there was no dispute in what they believed. Jesus’ disciples were honest and ordinary peasants, not cunning and deceitful lawyers. The change in their lives was from fear to faith, despair to confidence, and cowardice to boldness. It is improbable that twelve poor, fearful, and uneducated tradespeople confronted and confused the powerful Roman world with their lie. The likelihood of these timid disciples stealing the body of Jesus out from under the noses of highly disciplined and skilled Roman soldiers while they all slept (an offense punishable by death) is challenging to accept. The effects of the disciples’ faith in the resurrection are apparent:

In the midst of the tyranny of the persecutors, an innumerable throng of people, both simple and learned, flocked to the Christian faith. In this faith there are truths proclaimed that surpass every human intellect; the pleasures of the flesh are curbed; it is taught that the things of the world should be spurned. Now, for the minds of mortal men to assent to these things is the greatest of miracles. … This wonderful conversion of the world to the Christian faith is the clearest witness. … For it would be truly more wonderful than all signs if the world had been led by simple and humble men to believe such lofty truths, to accomplish such difficult actions, and to have such high hopes.

Peter Kreeft, Handbook of Christian Apologetics

If there had been a conspiracy and the resurrection was a lie, the Jews needed only to produce the corpse to bring closure to the matter. It would have been in their best interest to do so. They needed Jesus to be dead. Producing His corpse would put to rest the resurrection claim and any thought that Jesus was, in fact, the Son of God. It would have been in the best interest of the Romans if Jesus were dead, for the reputation of the Roman Empire would have been called into question if anyone had made their way past the guards and broke the seal on the tomb. They, also, had only to produce the corpse to put the conspiracy to rest. Geisler succinctly states the likelihood of such a conspiracy:

This hypothesis, if true, would make out the disciples to be most pious frauds that ever lived. We would have to believe, contrary to psychological fact, that they died for what they knew to be false, and that they were transformed from cowards to courageous men in a few weeks by a deceptive plot that enabled them to turn the known world upside down. It is hardly more miraculous to believe in the resurrection itself than to believe this highly unlikely hypothesis.

Norman Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics

1 Lickerman, Alex, M.D. “Why We Lie.” Psychology Today. 8 Mar. 2010. Web. 06 Feb. 2016.

False Theories of the Resurrection. Part #3: Why the Hallucination Theory Comes Up Short

The Hallucination Theory asserts that the disciples and other followers were so emotionally involved with Jesus that they only had a hallucination of Him rising from the dead. This theory further holds that Christ’s post-resurrection appearances were only supposed appearances. 

As a result, the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus Christ are dismissible. The Hallucination Theory misses the mark as a suitable alternative to Jesus’ resurrection as it fails to adequately handle matters such as the number of witness accounts, medical truths related to hallucinations, and the lack of explanation of other resurrection facts. 

 The post-resurrection appearances of Jesus were numerous and took place in different locations lasting for varying amounts of time. Jesus appeared “when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews” (John 20:19) and “showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord” (John 20:20). Mary Magdalene, supposing Jesus to be a gardener, was confronted with the reality of the risen Lord after arriving at the tomb early Sunday morning. He told her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God” (John 20:17). She then went and told the disciples what He had told her. 

 The disciples were not the only ones on record as having seen the risen Christ. The Apostle Paul records in 1 Corinthians 15 that Christ was “…seen by James, then by all the apostles” (v.7), and separately “…last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time” (v.8). Paul discloses that many of those to whom Christ had personally appeared were still alive, which presented a challenge to his readers to verify their claims. The appearances of Christ lasted too long for them to be a hallucination. Hallucinations usually last for seconds or minutes, rarely for hours. 1 Luke records one such extended appearance, “He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). Likely the greatest challenge to the Hallucination Theory is the fact that Jesus appeared to “more than five hundred brethren at once” (1 Corinthians 15:6). Clinical psychologists suggest that the most formidable obstacle for the hallucination theory to overcome is its failure to explain appearances to groups of people:

I have surveyed the professional literature (peer-reviewed journal articles and books) written by psychologists, psychiatrists, and other relevant healthcare professionals during the past two decades and have yet to find a single documented case of a group hallucination, that is, an event for which more than one person purportedly shared in a visual or other sensory perception where there was clearly no external referent.  

William Dembski, Evidence for God; 50 Arguments for Faith From the Bible

Psychologist Gary Collins was no less clear when he remarked:

Hallucinations are individual occurrences. By their very nature, only one person can see a given hallucination at a time. They certainly aren’t something which can be seen by a group of people. Neither is it possible that one person could somehow induce a hallucination in somebody else. Since a hallucination exists only in this subjective, personal sense, it is obvious that others cannot witness it. And yet, Jesus not only appeared to numerous individuals but to groups, as well—and on numerous occasions.

Dr. Gary Collins, Explaining Away Jesus’ Resurrection: Hallucination

A hallucination may explain only the post-resurrection appearances; it does not explain the empty tomb, the rolled away stone, and Roman and Jewish officials’ inability to produce the body of Jesus Christ. Writing on the certainty of the resurrection, C.S. Lewis offered:

Any theory of hallucination breaks down on the fact (and if it is invention [rather than fact], it is the oddest invention hat ever entered the mind of man) that on three separate occasions this hallucination was not immediately recognized as Jesus. Even granting that God sent a holy hallucination to teach truths already widely believed without it, and far more easily taught by other methods, and certain to be completely obscured by this, might we not at least hope that He would get the face of the hallucination right? Is He who made all faces such a bungler that He cannot even work up a recognizable likeness of the Man who was Himself?

Peter Kreeft, Handbook of Christian Apologetics: Hundreds of Answers to Crucial Questions

1 Kreeft, Peter, and Ronald K. Tacelli. Handbook of Christian Apologetics: Hundreds of Answers  to Crucial Questions. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994. Print.

False Theories of the Resurrection. Part #2: Why the Swoon Theory Comes Up Short

The Swoon Theory, first proposed in 1828 by naturalist H.E.G Paulus in his work, The Life of Jesus, supposed Jesus Christ did not die on the cross. 1 Instead, proponents believe that He swooned (fainted), was placed in a borrowed tomb in an unconscious state, and was later revived inside the cold, dark tomb. This theory resurfaced in the mid-twentieth century through the writings of two scholars. In The Passover Plot, Hugh Schonfield alleged that Joseph of Arimathea arranged for an unidentified man to give Jesus a drugged drink. As a result, He slipped into a state of unconsciousness, only appearing to be dead. His body was removed from the tomb on Saturday, and He later regained consciousness. He asked the unidentified man to tell His disciples that He had risen, and later died and was reburied. 2 

       In The Jesus Scroll, Donavan Joyce similarly alleged that Jesus had been drugged before His crucifixion. Joyce believed that the Roman soldiers had been bribed and therefore did not examine Jesus’ body closely to ensure His death. As a result, Jesus did not die on the cross. According to Joyce, Jesus was resuscitated in the tomb by a doctor hidden inside the tomb beforehand. 3  The Swoon Theory has serious failing when it comes to an alternate explanation of Jesus’ resurrection. Strong evidence exists that Jesus experienced an actual physical death. The injuries Jesus sustained on the cross, including scourging, made death unavoidable as the nature of crucifixion assured a painful death. 

The scourging produced deep stripe-like lacerations and appreciable blood loss, and it probably set the stage for hypovolemic shock, as evidenced by the fact that Jesus was too weakened to carry the crossbar to Golgotha” (Edwards 1455-63). This overture to the crucifixion alone would have been grueling and life-draining. 

William Edwards, “On the Physical Death of Jesus,” Journal of the American Medical Association – March 21, 1986.

       Jesus hung on the cross from the “third hour” (Mark 15:22) until the “sixth hour” (Mark 15:33), just before sunset. He bled from gashes in his hands and feet and from the thorns that pierced his scalp. These wounds would have drained away much blood over this time. Besides, crucifixion demands that the condemned constantly pull their bodies up by their hands and push off their injured feet to breathe. “Modern medical interpretation of the historical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead when taken down from the cross.” 4  

       In addition to the medical facts that attest to Jesus’ death, burial customs of the day aid in disproving the Swoon Theory. Once death was established, the corpse was washed, anointed, and wrapped in linen cloths with spices enclosed (John 19:40). The deceased’s arms and legs were tightly bound, and the head covered with a separate piece of fabric. Jesus lay in a tomb with a large stone, likely exceeding one thousand pounds, rolled in front to seal off the entrance (The King James Version Study Bible 1529). The closing off of the tomb was an involved process:

Immediately in front of the doorway (the top of which is more than a foot below the floor of the porch) is a deep trench, commencing a foot or two west of the door, and extending three or four yards along the wall eastward. The bottom of this trench is a short distance below the sill of the door, and is probably an inclined plane. Along this channel a large thick stone disc traverses, fitting very accurately against its western end, which is made concave, to be exactly conformed to the convexity of this large millstone-like disc when rolled to that end—thus closing the doorway most effectively.

James Freeman, Manners and Customs of the Bible

If it were somehow possible for Jesus to survive Roman crucifixion, the heavy stone in the tomb’s entrance presented a severe obstacle. In His weakened condition, Jesus would have had to move an object that would prove difficult for a healthy man to move, remembering that the stone had to roll uphill. All of this demonstrates that a swoon theory cannot account for the biblical and medical facts of Jesus’ death and resurrection. 5


1 Geisler, Norman L. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Baker Reference Library,  1999. Print.

2 Habermas, Gary R. The Verdict of History; Conclusive Evidence for the Life of Jesus. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1988. Print.

3 Ibid.

4 Edwards, William D., Gabel, Wesley J. “On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ,” Journal of the American Medical Association; 255, no. 11, (March 21, 1986), 1455-63.

5 Habermas, Gary R. The Verdict of History; Conclusive Evidence for the Life of Jesus. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1988. Print.